The effects of eye movements on emotional memories: Using an objective measure of cognitive load

Description

Background: Eyemovement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder. The workingmemory (WM) theory explains its efficacy: recall of an aversivememory and making eye movements (EM) both produce cognitive load, and competition for the limited WM resources reduces the memory’s vividness and emotionality. The present study tested several predictions fromWM theory.


Objective: We hypothesized that 1) recall of an aversive autobiographical memory loads WM compared to no recall, and 2) recall with EM reduces the vividness, emotionality, and cognitive load of recalling the memory more than only recall or only cognitive effort (i.e., recall of an irrelevant memory with EM).

Method: Undergraduates (N108) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: 1) recall relevant memory with EM, 2) recall relevant memory without EM, and 3) recall irrelevant memory with EM. We used a random interval repetition task to measure the cognitive load of recalling the memory. Participants responded to randomly administered beeps, with or without recalling the memory. The degree towhich participants slowdown during recall provides an index of cognitive load. We measured the cognitive load and self-reported vividness and emotionality before, halfway through (824 s), and after (1624 s) the intervention. Results: Reaction times slowed down during memory recall compared to no recall. The recall relevant with EM condition showed a larger decrease in self-reported vividness and emotionality than the control conditions. The cognitive load of recalling the memory also decreased in this condition but not consistently more than in the control conditions.

Conclusions: Recall of an aversive memory loads WM, but drops in vividness and emotionality do not immediately reduce the cognitive load of recalling the memory. More research is needed to find objective measures that could capture changes in the quality of the memory.

Format

Journal

Language

English

Author(s)

Suzanne C. van Veen
Iris M. Engelhard
Marcel A. van den Hout

Original Work Citation

van Veen, S. C., Engelhard, I. M., & van den Hout, M. A. (2016). The effects of eye movements on emotional memories: Using an objective measure of cognitive load. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 7, 30122.  doi:10.3402/ejpt.v7.30122

Collection

Citation

“The effects of eye movements on emotional memories: Using an objective measure of cognitive load,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed August 14, 2020, https://emdria.omeka.net/items/show/23989.

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